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View Full Version : A good use for old Cat5!



Luke122
07-19-2007, 05:00 PM
Good afternoon everyone!

I'm way too happy for a Thursday afternoon, but I have a good excuse. As I sat in my office today, listening to music while I work (as I often do.. and I'm sure you do too), I realized how I wasnt quite happy with the sound in my office.

Since I have good speakers, an amazing amp, and loads of high quality tunes (most of my collection is lossless, the rest is CD), I thought "this music should sound better".

Keep in mind that old phrase, GIGO.. "Garbage in, Garbage out". While not exactly garbage, my interconnects and speaker wire certainly left lots to be desired.

I ended up making new speaker wires, using 6 strands of Cat5 that I salvaged from another building.

http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p176/lukifer122/Completed.jpg

Materials:
6 lengths of Cat5 cable, any length you want
2 sets Banana plugs
Some electrical tape (or zip ties)
Heat shrink tubing
wire cutters
wire strippers
heat source (heat gun, lighter, etc)
PATIENCE


Here we go.....


1. Make sure all 6 pieces of Cat5 are the same length
2. Using the electrical tape, connect 3 pieces together at one end, leaving about 6-8" of wire at the end before the tape.
3. Braid the 3 together. Once you reach the other end, tape them together 6-8" from the end of the wires.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the last 3 pieces of Cat5.

4. Remove the sleeve from the Cat5, exposing all of the twisted pairs of wire. Untwist them all, and group all of the solid colors together in one group, and all of the striped colors together in another group.

5. Strip approx. 2" of shielding from ALL of the wires. Once they are all stripped, twist them together tightly. (Colors together, stripes together)

6. Using the heat shrink tubing, separate the two groups of wires (colors and stripes) and insulate them to prevent shorting against each other.

7. Attach the banana plugs to the wires, and tighten the connectors until they are solid. (I also put heat shrink over the banana plugs to ensure they donít come loose)

8. Plug in and enjoy!!!!!

The difference in sound from my system is STARTLING. I am absolutely floored that such a simple thing as speaker wire could make such a huge difference. Imaging is better, clarity is better, thereís cleaner highs, and waaaay more bass.

Iím working on some custom interconnects next, I hope to have them done tomorrow sometime, and hopefully have the tut posted on here early next week.

**NOTE: Make sure you check your work carefully throughout this, as you can potentially destroy your amp if you manage to short the wires. You can use a continuity tester if you are unsure!!! Also, you may find yourself wanting to play music louder than normal with these wires.. DONíT GET FIRED from your job.. itís not my fault if you do! **

Now I should point out that I work in a remote corner of the building, away from most of the other staff.. the offices around me are all part timers, and I'm right behind the main boardroom and storage rooms. Sufficiently isolated to play music throughout the day at slightly higher than typical office volumes. Today though, Iíve had a few people stop in to see whatís up.. and they were all amazed with the difference in sound. :D

Commando
07-19-2007, 05:04 PM
Awesome,

Good speaker wire is ridiculously expensive. + Rep

Luke122
07-19-2007, 05:05 PM
I'm gonna put this up against some monster cables tonight, and this weekend I'll try to get it tested against some Kimbers... nothing like beating $500+ speaker wire with old Cat5. :D

calumc
07-19-2007, 05:11 PM
original, +rep

Spawn-Inc
07-19-2007, 10:28 PM
my brother did something similar but only used 1 cable and some make and female plugs. i'm not sure if it was for speakers though and if it was it was only for signal not hooked directly to the speakers. he ex girlfriend's dogs likes wires so she can't have full surround sound with the stock length wires. so he got some cat5 and made them (the rear speakers) detachable.

cool idea though +rep.

Luke122
07-20-2007, 11:07 AM
*update*

After playing these wires for several hours last night, and 2 hours so far today, I'm still in love with them. Apparently, Cat5 speaker wire takes some time to "break in" before it sounds *REALLY* good. (Audio guys are a little nuts I think..)

Anyways, I'm still playing them now, and currently fighting someone on Ebay for some killer speakers.

Oh also, I'm going to try building the interconnects next to spiff up the signal from the pre-amp to the amp. :D

Drum Thumper
07-20-2007, 02:28 PM
How'd they compare to the Monster Cables?

Luke122
07-20-2007, 04:37 PM
Hands down winners over the Monster Cable (Big-100) speaker wire. :D :D :D

Bass was deeper and louder, highs were clearer, and the whole soundstage was wider.

Luke122
07-22-2007, 11:47 AM
*update*

Missed out on the speakers on Ebay.. dammit.. someone put a proxy bid of $350 USD. I only went to $150 USD, then stopped.. I could probably build those speakers for less than that. :P

Interconnects will be built tomorrow when I get home from the inlaws house, and I'm going to try and sketchup the speaks myself too.. maybe I'll just build them.

moon111
07-22-2007, 05:33 PM
I pulled a spool of old CAT5 out of the garbage. This is a great idea. You stated you went with 6 strands... would it matter how many based on amps?

Does anyone know if CAT5 can be used to replace phone wiring? I'd like to re-wire my entire house with the stuff.

rendermandan
07-23-2007, 12:02 AM
yes you can use cat 5 for phone wireing. infact most homes built today are now running that now. but if your going to do that, I would recomment running Cat 6E to every room along with at Cat 5 for phone, that way you could have a whole home network setup prewired for the future.

Luke122
07-23-2007, 12:21 AM
I chose 6 strands (3 per side) for simplicity. Braiding 3 is easy.. 4 is harder. Plus, with 3 strands (total of 12 pairs of wire) I ended up with a final wire of about 12awg, which is the same as the Monster Cable speaker wire I tested against, but with the benefit of loads of twists for noise cancellation.

You can go larger if you like.. I read about one guy using 54 pairs total to make wires for 2 speakers.. way too much braiding for me. :D

I'm only running 15w peak (probably about 5-8w in reality) through this wire, but it's easily large enough to handle 100w+.. it was more about clarity for me than anything else.

Luke122
07-23-2007, 06:45 PM
OK, just made a set of interconnects also from Cat5.

I cut 2 lengths of around 2 ft, and removed the twisted pairs from the casing. I then removed the brown/brown white pairs from each, and seperated the blue/green/and orange pairs into groups.

I then braided the blue/green/orange pairs together (6 pairs total) to get about 1.5ft total. Since I am making a mini plug to RCA cable, I separated the 12 wires into groups of 4.

I made the green/greenwhite pairs a common ground, and the blue was right channel, orange was left channel. Soldered them all into a mini plug, and tested to make sure no shorts.

Next, split the orange and half the green/greenwhite pairs to make the left RCA, and the blue and other half of the green/greenwhite pairs to make the right RCA connection.

Soldered all together, and checked with the continuity tester. No problems, so it was time for a live test.

Plugged it in, and... disappointing. Not nearly as good as I'd hoped, and certainly not as good as the Cat5 speaker cable turned out.

In all fairness, it might need some break-in time (according to some audio forums) so I'll keep playing it all night, and review them again tomorrow.

So far, my hifi setup for my office has been pretty cheap..

Sonic Impact Super T-Amp - $159.99 CAD
Speaker stands - $25 on Boxing Day from Bestbuy
M-Audio Mobile Pre USB - $185.99 (almost 2 years ago)
Sony Bookshelf Speakers - Free.. wife's old mini system
Speaker Wire - Free.. made from salvaged Cat5
Assorted plugs to make cables - $15ish from Radio Shack
Audio Source - Work laptop.. already had that too.

:D

As I've said before.. it's not a super loud system, but the sound is amazing.

Luke122
08-14-2007, 03:46 PM
OK, I know that this is a computer forum, but I had to scrap the computer from this setup for playback.

I've replaced the laptop + M-Audio external soundcard with a PSX. Yes, an old school grey playstation. Model SCPH-1001 to be exact.. the only one with RCA jacks right on the playstation itself.

As it turns out, the sound from this thing is unfreakinbelievable!!!!

Sounds WAAAAY better than the lossless audio files, or even CD playback from the laptop with the external M-Audio (which still sounded/sounds prety damn good)!

I picked up 2 of these playstations for $25 each at a pawn shop in Edmonton, and the owner said he'd watch for more of this model for me.

SO... total cost on the stereo is now updated!

Sonic Impact Super T-Amp - $159.99 CAD
Speaker stands - $25 on Boxing Day from Bestbuy
Sony Bookshelf Speakers - Free.. wife's old mini system
Speaker Wire - Free.. made from salvaged Cat5
Assorted plugs to make cables - $15ish from Radio Shack
Sony Playstation SCPH-1001 -$25
Funtak (bluetack) to attach speakers to stands (stability) - $4
Floor spikes for speaker stands - Free, thanks to Audioark in Edmonton

Total cost = $228.99

Now I had a chance to hear a stereo @ Audioark that was close to $10,000 retail. My little system sounded 90% as good. Once I fill the stands with sand, add the floor spikes, and position the speakers right, it should be 99% as good.. just a whole lot cheaper.

calumc
08-14-2007, 04:20 PM
:pics:

Luke122
08-14-2007, 04:32 PM
Haha.. fair enough. Pics on the way!

Killdrath
08-14-2007, 05:37 PM
I recycled some cat5 in a similar manner.

My living room "tv" is an LCD projector (currently hooked up through a used Dell via a tv tuner card), but my speaker system is all wired to the sub in the center of the far side of the room. So, I used a run of cat 5 to make a really really long set of RCA cables to go around the room. I didnt compare them to the monster cables I have, but the sound is pretty excellent.

And yes, getting rid of the Dell for a true HTPC *is* in the planning stages.

Luke122
08-16-2007, 11:10 AM
Heres the office.. it's cleaner now, I swear!

http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p176/lukifer122/IMG_0031.jpg

A bit clearer shot of the desktop..

http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p176/lukifer122/IMG_0033.jpg

And a detail shot showing the playstation and the amp....

http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p176/lukifer122/IMG_0036.jpg

.Maleficus.
08-16-2007, 07:09 PM
Jesus... that's some thick wire...

Though I may try it out when my new speakers come. I've got loads of Cat5 sitting in my room.

Luke122
08-17-2007, 10:08 AM
If you do try it, you may find that the wire clips wont accept wire this size. I had to do some serious twisting/crushing with pliers to get the ends of the wire into the clips on the speakers. Fortunately the amp had banana plugs on it, so I just put on some good quality ends, and *click*. :D

Either way, make sure you compare the difference between the stock wire and the cat5 wire with the same recording.. I'm positive that you'll be impressed.

Indybird
09-23-2007, 10:00 PM
Would anyone be willing to make and sell some to me? I'm using some plain ol' stock wires for my Z-5500. I wouldn't be able to do all of that braiding, and then have it work right.

First, would you be willing to do that for a decent rate?
Second, would it help my setup as much as yours?

Thanks,
Indybird

Brockgrimes
06-09-2008, 04:14 PM
Old thread I know, but if you wanted to go thicker and not take up a terrible amount of room, you could use 4 strands of cat-5 and use a 4-strand Plait Braid, or a modified crown knot.

But with the wires already twisted and shielded inside the cat-5 casing, I'd just bundle them and use electrical tape to keep them together and try it that way first, then test it braided. I'm sure it'll be minimal if even noticeable difference.
For a perminate fix I'd take the 4 bundles and route them through some a wire cover similar to this:
http://images.cableorganizer.com/techflex/stainless-steel_sm.jpg

Or the plastic braided stuff or the cheapy wire cover sold at autostores.

nailz
07-22-2008, 02:59 PM
Yes, another necro post for this, but I just came across it and decided to give it a shot. I've got my first 3 cat5 strand braided together and the wires stripped. My question, awful as it probably seems, is this:

I imagine that this will work for say, the white/red RCA cables as well, and I just need to group Solid wires->Red Jack, Striped wires->white Jack, yes? Can the cables be inserted into these?

I know nothing of electronics (have help testing the stuff), but I'd like to make the RCA Audio plugs out of this stuff for my media components. Thanks for this idea though, it rocks!

nevermind1534
07-22-2008, 04:00 PM
I say buy the plug to put on the end, or cut up an existing cord, although it would probably be best to stay away the ones from the dollar store, but they would work. You could just connect it to the plug. The prong in the center is for the signal and the outer ring is for ground.

nailz
07-22-2008, 04:10 PM
I was going to go to my local fry's electronics to pick up the shrink wrap and ends. So using this cat5 method w/ the signal/ground info, as long as you do say... solid -> signal and stripe -> ground it should work, right?

Luke122
07-22-2008, 07:40 PM
Yes, this method (braiding) will work for RCAs, but dont do it! I tried it, and found that the capacitance was too high, and the sound output was.. strangely affected.

If you want to make RCAs, just use a single piece of Cat5. As you said solid-signal, stripes-ground, and solder them up carefully. I used some nylon cable sleeving on it as well, then did some heatshrink on the ends before screwing the plugs back together on the ends, and it turned out really nice. Sound was good with $12 Radio Shack gold plated plugs, definitely better than my Monsters.

Or even better, pull out one twisted pair from the cat5, and use that. Yes, one single twisted pair of 24ga wires. I did this with a set of Eichmann bullet plugs (around $60 USD) and they absolutely destroyed my expensive Monster brand RCA cables. I also noticed a slight boost in bass with the single strand cables as well.

The Eichmann bullets are awesome though, and I cant say enough good things about them. Also, make sure you use solder with the highest silver content that you can.. that makes a big difference too.

Luke122
07-22-2008, 07:45 PM
Would anyone be willing to make and sell some to me? I'm using some plain ol' stock wires for my Z-5500. I wouldn't be able to do all of that braiding, and then have it work right.

First, would you be willing to do that for a decent rate?
Second, would it help my setup as much as yours?

Thanks,
Indybird

I'll make some up for you for free if you want, I have 8000' of cat5 here (reclaimed from building upgrade) so I can spare some. :D You just pay for shipping, and it's yours. :D

Sorry for the slow reply.. if you still want it, let me know.

nailz
07-24-2008, 11:33 AM
A lot of good information

Thanks a lot Luke. I had already started doing the RCA braid thing. I'll have to junk the wire and start over. Certainly not a huge idea. I'm going el-cheapo for my first few times around, just to be sure I can actually make this stuff work. As I said, I know virtually nothing about electronics. I'll try the single cable before I attempt the single twisted pair though. Should make for interesting results.

Maybe I'll make some of this speaker wire for my 5.1 creative set in the future though. It'll probably blow it up :D

Luke122
07-24-2008, 11:49 AM
:D

The single twisted pair is actually the easiest, since all you are doing is splitting open a cat5, and taking out one pair of twisted wires. (Blue/white for example) Solder ends onto it, and you are done.

With the single cat5 strand, you are splitting all the twisted pairs into solids and stripes, then soldering to each group. Soldering 2 wires into a plug is much easier than soldering in 8 wires. Just my 2 cents.. :D

nailz
07-24-2008, 01:03 PM
Hm.. and maybe this would've destroyed me, but I was under the impression that after stripping the 4 wires (stripes), you'd then twist up all of the exposed wiring together, and then solder that, and then follow suit the same way with the solids? Is this incorrect?

Sorry for all the questions :D

I'll attempt the single pair idea based on your mini jack talk through earlier in this post, and just modify it like you suggest for RCA, that may indeed be easier. hmmmm... this should be interesting.

Luke122
07-24-2008, 01:46 PM
Hm.. and maybe this would've destroyed me, but I was under the impression that after stripping the 4 wires (stripes), you'd then twist up all of the exposed wiring together, and then solder that, and then follow suit the same way with the solids? Is this incorrect?

Yes, thats correct. If we are talking RCA's still though, I would still suggest trying the single strand first, as its much easier, and I felt sounded much nicer, with a bit more mid-low punch than the 4 pairs. I can post a pic if you want to clarify.


Sorry for all the questions :D

Dont be sorry at all! Clarity is important!



I'll attempt the single pair idea based on your mini jack talk through earlier in this post, and just modify it like you suggest for RCA, that may indeed be easier. hmmmm... this should be interesting.

Are you referring to the my miniplug - rca splitter that I made for PC to stereo? I found that I was losing quite a bit of signal due to the higher resistance/capacitance of all the extra wire in that device (I think there were 16 twisted pairs total braided in that cable).

Let me find some pics to help explain. :)

Luke122
07-24-2008, 01:56 PM
I should clarify something else also:

- I refer to a piece of cat5 as a "strand"
- I refer to the wire inside of the cat5 as "twisted pairs", and there are 4 "twisted pairs" in each "strand" of cat5.

nailz
07-24-2008, 02:31 PM
yah, I understand Cat5 and all that jazz, I'm just an odd case of computer nerd and not electronics oriented at all. :)

So what I'm going to basically do is take TP of Brown/Brown White cables, and TP of Green/Green White cables, and connect the B/BW combo to the center audio jack on either end, and make the G/GW pair a ground, connected to the metal near the wire clamp. I will repeat this on both ends of 1 RCA, then repeat for the other channel.

Pics would be amazing though. I am indeed trying the less cable approach :) ...

Thanks for all the help luke! :)

dfigravity
07-27-2008, 01:37 AM
I'm going to give this a shot for the subwoofers in my car....the amp wiring kit that I bought came with some cheas@ss speaker wire...maybe this will help.

nailz
08-05-2008, 06:54 PM
So I just finished my first pair (lol, procrastination). Hopefully it doesn't blow anything up at home.

Luke122
08-05-2008, 07:18 PM
I'm just uploading a pic to my photobucket account right now.. I'll post one in a few mins. :)

Luke122
08-05-2008, 07:24 PM
http://i128.photobucket.com/albums/p176/lukifer122/Image020.jpg

Even easier than you thought!

Using the twisted pair method, you would use one tp for the left channel, and one for the right channel. Yes, that's honestly all the wire you need. :D

Luke122
08-05-2008, 07:32 PM
I'm going to give this a shot for the subwoofers in my car....the amp wiring kit that I bought came with some cheas@ss speaker wire...maybe this will help.

I dont think you'll see any benefit for a subwoofer, in fact this might even have the opposite effect in a low freq, high power application.

I would say for subs, go with regular 10-12awg speaker wire. For your front speakers however, you might get some benefit from it.

ShadowNyfe
12-23-2008, 07:39 AM
hey there :]

*pokes really dead thread that is still awesome*

I read this back during the summer and didn't think much about it, but now I need some clarification on this. I'm in the market for new speakers and I've settled on the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1: http://www.klipsch.com/products/details/promedia-2-1.aspx

First off, is that a decent speaker set for the price? I'd like a sub with the set, around $100-120 price range, good quality. Read a bunch of reviews everywhere, most people agree it's pretty good.

The one problem that people report is poor wiring, so I recalled this thread and searched for it. One of your previous posts stated that it could handle 100+ amps with this method so I think it should be fine for my system, but I just wanted an opinion on it. Do you think it'd help the sound quality if I'm running this from my computer, or is this only useful for people using amps and such.

I'm gonna admit I'm a big fan of high quality sounds, though currently a very uneducated audiophile so I'm asking for help.

Thanks for any input anyone might give.

Luke122
12-23-2008, 12:36 PM
Let me check into that speaker combo for you, I'll post a reply ASAP. :)

Luke122
12-23-2008, 12:59 PM
Ok, so after confirming the speaker wire and connections of that Klipsch set you linked, I can honestly say YES, cat5 speaker wire will make a difference for you.

http://www.canuckaudiomart.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9434&highlight=cat5 - This thread talks about braiding/twisting cat5/6 for building speaker wire.

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=73632&highlight= - Can you actually hear a difference between speaker wires? This thread discusses it.. at length.

I would say you should do this: start by breaking in the speakers before doing any testing. This will ensure even results.. as speakers break in, they begin to sound better.

Once broken in (15-20 hours of playback at medium levels), pick a reference song/album and listen to it a few times with the stock wires. Next, switch to a single twisted pair for the speakers. Listen to the same material a few times, and then switch to a strand of cat5/6 for each channel, and repeat. Lastly, braid up a set of cables, and try that.

You should hear a difference at every change; experience says that the left/right speakers will get a bass boost from the single twisted pair, but better clarity from a strand, and best imaging from the braided set.

You certainly dont need to go as extreme as I did, or as far as THIS GUY (http://www.venhaus1.com/diycatfivecables.html) to get noticeable results, so just try it all, and see what works best for you.

There really is no magic formula for getting the best sound from your system, it's all about trial and error until you nail it. :)

ShadowNyfe
12-24-2008, 02:11 AM
Cool :] Thanks for the insane response time. Few questions again haha.

1) What exactly is the difference between a CAT5 and CAT6 cable, and do they both work as internet cables? Kind of off topic, but was just wondering since I always get them confused.

1a) Which would be better to make cables out of and why, CAT5 or CAT6?

2) What exactly is the difference between a single strand, pair of twisted strands, 6-wire braid, and his insane 54 wire braid?

3) Think those Klipsch's are any good for the money? =P

Luke122
12-24-2008, 03:30 AM
1. Cat6 is stable to higher frequencies for data transmission. Basically it's better quality shielding. They are essentially interchangeable, but as I said, cat6 is capable of carrying higher speed signal.

1a. There was some discussion of that in one of those links I sent... cat6 seems to be preferred, but I have none to actually test myself atm.

2. I touched on the difference a bit in my last post, but to answer the 54wire braid.. You end up with a high capacitance cable, which can be destructive on some amplifiers. Personally, the big braids I did sounded amazing with my t-amp, so I would say unless you really like the look of the complex braids, and you have a high quality amp, dont bother.

3. I think so, but my preference would be a T-Amp and a pair of decent bookshelf speakers, with no sub. A single full range driver would be ideal.. google "zigmahornets" to see what I run.